Special Reports
July / August 2019

Networking & Learning at ISPE Young Professionals HackaThon

Aisling Judge
Sam Andrews
Judging the teams’ spaghetti towers during the icebreaker activity.

The ISPE Young Professionals Hackathon, which has become an annual event run in conjunction with the ISPE Europe Annual Conference, brings together some of the brightest, most inquisitive young engineers from across Europe for a two-day networking and learning event.

This year’s event was organized by the ISPE Ireland Affiliate Young Professionals. Special thanks to John Clarke, Emer Somers, and Elaine Clarke, as well as Marta Malo de Molina of the ISPE Spain Affiliate and the many others who assisted.

On 30–31 March 2019, more than 25 Young Professionals gathered at the Clayton Hotel Dublin and were posed a simple challenge:

It’s 2030 and you have been employed at Jigsaw Inc., an innovative pharmaceutical manufacturer. Develop a strategy for a new multiproduct Dublin-based facility.

Hackathon Rules

The Young Professionals were divided into four groups, and each group was given a separate theme for the challenge. These themes mirrored many of the topics covered in the ISPE Europe Conference over the subsequent days: Pharma 4.0, process analytic technology (PAT), next-generation therapeutics, and single-use technology. Under the guidance of senior ISPE mentors (Damian Greene, HiTech Health; Christian Wölbeling, Werum IT Solutions; Ursula Busse, Novartis; Gert Moelgaard, Moelgaard Consulting; and Eamon Judge, Eli Lilly), the groups explored and brainstormed potential ideas and solutions to the challenges the pharmaceutical industry may face in 2030.

Each group was tasked with scoping the topic, developing a project charter, and assessing the financial implications of their proposed solutions, with the ultimate goal of pitching to a panel of expert judges at the culmination of the Hackathon.

In conjunction with the core topics, and in keeping with the ISPE Communities of Practice, representatives from each of the four groups broke out on the first afternoon to form mini-Communities of Practices and discuss a number of challenges faced across all themes. Communities of Practice topics included data integrity, supply chain management, regulatory issues, and sustainability—all pertinent topics for the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. When groups reconvened, each member shared the lessons and challenges they had gathered while participating in their Communities of Practice. During this exercise, participants immediately noted the significant overlap among the Hackathon themes and how no one topic was independent from the others.

Networking Opportunities

Of course, the event wasn’t all work and no play! After a challenging first day, the true networking began in earnest with an evening meal attended by ISPE International Board members and staff at Medley in Dublin. The meal, sponsored by Novo Nordisk, was an opportunity for the Young Professionals to let their hair down, learn more about their new colleagues and friends in an informal setting, and converse and network with more experienced members of the ISPE community. The dinner proved to be a huge success and one of the highlights of the two-day event.

Sunday morning dawned bright and early for the Young Professionals. While there were some bleary eyes, all groups were busy putting the finishing touches on their presentations. Each group then had the opportunity to make a 15-minute pitch to the panel of expert judges regarding their initiatives and suggestions.


LeAnna M. Pearson
Associate Director Quality Compliance and Regulatory
2019 International Young Professional Committee Chair
Michael L. Rutherford
Retired, Computer Systems Quality & Data Integrity
ISPE International Board of Directors

Future Views

So, what does manufacturing in 2030 look like according to the Young Professionals? They imagined a future of three-dimensional printing of consumables, ballroom manufacturing suites, drone delivery of medicines to and from patients, and novel methods for integrated real-time data collection and cloud storage. Each team was quizzed on their proposals by both the judges and the audience of fellow Young Professionals, with team Pharma 4.0 chosen as the overall winner. Each member of that team received a year of complimentary membership to ISPE.

Overall, the Young Professional Hackathon proved an outstanding success, allowing participants to share ideas and experiences across a wide network of peers. Teamwork and communication skills were developed by all, as groups learned how to harness the unique expertise of each individual contributor to arrive at the best solutions. Friendships were formed and relationships were built, with everyone looking forward to the opportunity to reconvene at the 2020 ISPE Europe Annual Conference in Madrid.

euac 20

Save the date for the 2020 ISPE Europe Annual Conference in Madrid, Spain, 30 March – 1 April. Visit the conference website to get a sneak peak of what to expect at the 2020 ISPE Europe Annual Conference.

Hackathon Q&A

What is a Hackathon?

The word “hackathon” is taken from the words “hack” and “marathon,” where “hack” is used in the sense of exploratory efforts. Hackathons typically start with one or more presentations about the event and the specific subject. Then participants form teams based on their individual skills and interests. The work can last anywhere from several hours to several days. At the end of the Hackathon, there is usually a series of demonstrations in which each group presents their results.

What will happen at the Student & Young Professional Hackathon at the 2019 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo?

The Student & Young Professional Hackathon will bring ISPE Student and Young Professional members together for a weekend of networking, collaboration, education, and innovation. All participants will receive a real-world, industry-relevant case study prior to the Hackathon. At the Hackathon, participants will be put into teams. Each team will receive a challenge based on the case study and work together through the weekend to develop a solution. More experienced Young Professionals will be on hand throughout the Hackathon to coach the teams, and industry professionals from the United States and Europe will judge each teams’ presentations on the last day. The Hackathon will be held Saturday, 26 October 2019 from 0900–1700; and Sunday morning, 27 Octo-ber 2019, ending at 1100, when the judging will be held along with a celebratory brunch.

Will there still be an International Student Poster Competition?

Students who win local poster competitions and are sent to Annual Meeting by their Chapters/Affiliates will display their posters in the foyer outside of the Exhibit Hall. A specific time will be scheduled for them to discuss their posters with interested conference attendees. These students, along with other ISPE Student and Young Professional members, will also participate in the Student & Young Professional Hackathon.

Who is eligible for the Student & Young Professional Hackathon?

Students who win their local Student Poster Competition are automatically enrolled in the program, which is also open to all ISPE Student members in undergraduate or graduate programs, along with ISPE Young Professional members.

—Debbie Kaufmann, ISPE Membership Coordinator